When portrait was conceived as a genre, a person was depicted at the best moment of his or her life – at the height of their maturity, strengths and actions. The portrait, the painted ID, was conferred on prosperous and influential people. Galleries of their images are kept in the museums while the metadata about the canvases’ protagonists, as to who they are and why they are depicted, break away from the carrier and settle in the archives and in the heads of experts. What’s left is the visual images that acquire multiple interpretations depending on the background of the beholders. Portrait, as a prototype of infinite interpretation, is acquiring new forms nowadays.
There is a vague image on the flickering screen. The spellbound Narcissus looks at the device and, with a whisking gesture to-the-left-to-the-right, choses his reflection for today. However, is he the only one who determines his choice? When he looks at the screen he watches the others and accepts, as a game rule, the fact that he himself is being watched at this moment. The glance of the others, much like one’s own glance at the others, is capable of transforming the process of image-building into the infinite roaming in a mirror gallery.
Now one can compose one’s own infinite portrait gallery of avatars for all of the life’s intents and purposes. One is able to clarify and to update the image or, the other way around, to freeze the moment and to change nothing for years, to speak about the one thing and to keep silence about the other, not to reveal oneself at all, to blend in, to create simulacra, to steal the accounts and to generate doppelgangers. The image yields both to a slight correction and to a transformation beyond all recognition. To achieve all this, one needs not to be famous, well-to-do or socially significant.
The ultimate truth becomes the body that serves as an evidence of the existence and a unique characteristic. Biometrics turns into a document. For now, one cannot relinquish the body. This reaches an absurdity – the body is necessary because it interacts with the device.
The thing-device itself has its ID and serves as its keeper for the human being. Both the thing and the person have their own set off numeric characters. People have the TIN, passport and Social Security Number. The things have their own ID – the identifier, barcode and IMEI. The entrance through a fingerprint or face recognition becomes a point of interaction between the machine and the human being. ID turns the unknown into the known, named and attributed. The authorization through the ID provides an access and prevents an entry for strangers. Logins and passwords are simultaneously a lock and a picklock.
The integrity of being and of presence in the world gets disintegrated. That which determines and forms the human being took up its residence in the number as well. One can simultaneously be in two of here and now – in the real and in the virtual. The existence gets split into a multitude of the accounts in all forms of virtual communication with the world (from the accounts in social media, mail clients, services and games to mobile phones and bank accounts). The ID freezes between the virtual and the real, the invented and the real, the body and the thing.
A lifestyle that excludes an access to the internet looks more and more like a hermit’s life. Nevertheless, to be in the internet is still useful rather than essential. An encounter with the articulated position of an internet hermit or a technoluddite who refuses to get the new version of a yet more user-friendly gadget or to have it at all reflects how the notion of day-to-day existence has changed. The reluctance to be represented or to leave a minimal footprint in the internet gains momentum while turning into a radical position bordering on marginalization. The younger the generation, the more noticeable this is. This places emphasis on how the boundary of what’s normal or conventional has shifted and on the change of how we perceive the comfortable existence whose day-to-day set of daily routine actions includes regular plunging into the internet with a secure and nonstop access to it.
“ID” has a wide scatter of meanings – from the term in psychoanalysis (id) to the document that certifies one’s identity (ID). We are interested in what ID represents in the world of people and things, what new meanings come to life when they interact and what this leads to.
Elena Gubanova, Anna Frants, Lydia Griaznova
Curators of the 12th CYFEST